Kaine on Transportation: Good Rhetoric, Poor Policies

If quoted correctly, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine made a most perspicacious remark in a speech he delivered yesterday at the University of Richmond. If only his actions conformed with the principle he articulated!

Richmond.com quotes him as follows:

At the end of the day, this transportation issue on the dollar side will just come down to two philosophies. … One, should we find new revenues from transportation users to pay for improvements, or two, should we take money out of existing general fund priorities to pay for transportation?

Should transportation users pay for transportation improvements?

Yes, that’s the question. Although Kaine’s quote is pithy, it does oversimplify somewhat. I would clarify the choice as follows:

One, should we set up a system in which those who benefit from transportation spending — both citizens and landowners — pay in direct proportion to which they use, or benefit from, the system? Or, two, should we tax people regardless of how much they drive or when/where they drive, send the money to Richmond, stir it up in a big pot, and give it to politicians and lobbyists to dole out around the state?

My formulation accounts for the fact that landowners are among the primary beneficiaries of transportation improvements and should pay, either through proffers, impact fees, CDA bonds or some other mechanism, some share of the cost of building new roads.

Kaine’s rhetoric does highlight the weakness of the House of Delegates position on transportation spending. Although the House leadership favors tolls, a true user-pays system, delegates also would finance general transportation improvements out of the General Fund — the antithesis of a user-pays system. Doling out General Fund monies has proven itself just as susceptible to political manipulation as doling out Transportation Trust Fund monies — witness the multi-million dollar bail-out of the Richmond region’s Rt. 288 a couple of years ago.

My discomfort with Kaine’s quote is that his policies don’t reflect what he says. He would raise $1 billion a year mainly by taxing auto insurance fees, car titling fees and auto registration fees. In other words, he would tax people for owning a car, regardless of whether they drove it 6,000 miles a year or 60,000, regardless of whether they drove through empty country roads or hyper-congested rush hour freeways.

Would Gov. Kaine raise the gas tax? Noooo. Does he advocate a tax based on Vehicle Miles Driven? Noooo. Does he support congestion tolls? If so, he’s kept pretty darn quiet about it. Bottom line: There must be a rational nexus between the use of the transportation system and the payment for the system — a nexus that is transparent and understandable so the citizenry can respond rationally and change transportation modes as appropriate.

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35 responses to “Kaine on Transportation: Good Rhetoric, Poor Policies”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    “Perspicacious”? Aren’t we trying to be too much like A. Barton Hinkle who likes to impress with his big, big vocabularly?

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I would note that the Governors of Texas, Illinois, Indiana and California all stepped up to the plate with regard to TOLLs which are not universally popular by any stretch of the imagination. The Governors in each of the states took and continue to take heat from some quarters but they knew that moving forward was critical.

    .. and so the bottom line – is that these Governors took action – they LED the issue.

    Mr. Kaine is playing games in my view. He’s being coy and uttering cheerleading type rhetoric while keeping his head down when it’s 3rd and long on the game play.

    It’s his first year and I’m sure he and his advisers or thinking in terms of not falling on one’s sword too early in his tenure – but he’s gotten GOOD News Coverage with his remarks and sooner or later – folks are going to start asking “where’s the beef”.

    He’s hiding behind the Senate guys… rather than putting something of tangible merit on the table -regrettable.

    Think powerful his role he could be – if he found _some_ common ground with the HD on Transportation even if a few Senators got their rumps in an uproar.

    He’s got to learn that he is beholden to the people of Va – as much (hopefully more so) than a few old dogs in the Senate.

    And… if he’s not careful… he will lose the trust of many Virginian’s..if he stands around too long kicking the dirt rather than rolling up his sleeves.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    So, if a tax is to be increased, do you support increasing the gas tax?

    – Andrea

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Andrea, yes, a gas tax would be preferable to indiscriminant taxes on insurance, titles and registrations. But it has long-term problems, in particular the inevitable shift to hybrids and alternate fuels. The ideal solution, and one that will be technically feasible — as I will write about in the near future — is a system based on Vehicle Miles Driven, adjusted for the weight of the car. That tax would be dedicated to road maintenance only, and would be adjusted up or down as maintenance costs increase or decrease.

    The other revenue raiser would be a variable-priced toll on congested roads. The purpose of such a user tax would be twofold: (1) to reduce congestion and, in doing so, actually increase capacity; and (2) raise funds for improvements within the transportation corridor. Such improvements could consist of new/upgraded roads, mass transit facilities, or Intelligent Vehicle Systems.

    Those two sources of funds could be supplemented by tolls to pay for new construction, and General Funds to pay for projects of economic-development or public-safety significance.

    Each revenue source has a specific application and, accordingly, could be explained and sold to the public.

  5. nova_middle_man Avatar

    Aha as usual you hit the nail on the head. Its really what all of this is about and what makes it so sticky

    “General Funds to pay for projects of economic-development or public-safety significance”

    Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia, SW and Southside all make this argument so it boils down should new construction be selffinanced and if so at what percent and how will projects be rated to ensure “fairness” where some projects are given higher priority or receive more funding than others

    Much like the educational system these issues are being debated in the general assembly as to who pays for what and how much

    Overall your solution works for maintanence but there is still the tricky issue of who pays for new construction. Or are we assuming all new construction is financed by tolls.

    It’s really what all of this is about in the end should new construction use tax dollars as traditionally done or divert to a pay-as-you-go system. Or is the general assembly stalling and waiting for localities to pick up the tab.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s the gas tax increase prospects – in a nutshell:

    VDOT says two key categories of revenues are down for the first four months of the fiscal year.
    The two revenue streams that decreased are the motor-fuels tax and motor-vehicle sales and use-tax revenues.

    Annually, the two taxes account for almost half of the state money used to pay for transportation improvements and programs. VDOT officials say higher gas prices and depressed auto sales account for the downturn in the tax collections.”


    What the GA guys know FUll WELL but the general public doesn’t understand is that raising the gas tax is not going to raise significant new revenues … AND _could_, depending on the price of gas, actually bring in less overall money than right now. That’s in fact, what happened when gasoline for 3 bucks a gallon.. gas tax proceeds DECLINED.

    This is what Jim is alluding to when he says the long terms prospects for the gas tax as a sustainable source of revenue are … in a word .. bleak.

    It’s not really the hybrids which are a small number – it’s the fact that the overall new car fleet is more fuel efficient than the older models. Every time someone buys a new car, even a SUV – the odds are – that it gets better mileage than the one they had before… HUMMER buyers excepted… 🙂

    TOLLs are not the only answer – agreed but if the gas tax is not going to work… what can be done – especially in the short term in the next two to ten years?

    What those other states have done.. is “trade” private tolling of their mainline roads .. in exchange for a substantial concession fee (approaching 3/4 of VDOT’s annual budget – which is money for other roads.

    Also not understood, is that you’re not going to be able to build NEW roads in urban areas like NoVa and HR that are under EPA non-attainment rules.

    About the only new roads that they will sign off on is HOV and HOT lanes.

    The really ironic thing about Gilmores car tax repeal … was that – that would have been a possible path…even though mostlocalities were not using those revenues for roads but other things.

    Those revenues should have been directed to roads all along in my opinion but now that they’ve been “repealed” – what politician is going to advocate their re-introduction?

    Ha ha… Gilmore really “fixed” VDOT, didn’t he? (and I hear he wants to run for another term).

    If I were a state level politician .. I’d get legislation passed that would:

    1. – make localities responsible for local roads

    2. – give each of them the Option of re-instituting the auto property tax – purely optional – mind you – totally up to the locality

    3. – give each locality the ability to levy a transportation impact fee for development – like what has been given to Stafford and Spotsylvania and I believe Facquier and possibly others.

    If taxes HAVE to be raised – why not let localities keep their local proceeds and be directly responsible for BOTH land use AND transportation and let VDOT take care of the mega projects.. utilizing PPTA.

    I keep HOPING to see one or more of our erstwhile elected officials put something LIKE this on the table… rather than continue their food fight … when the GA convenes… somebody PLEASE do something RATIONAL..

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I drive around the state a lot for business. Under your proposal, would I pay more than someone who doesn’t drive for business, or would my employer pick up that part of my bill?

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    It appears to me that there are no options for not paying more – unless folks are content with the option to let the proceeds from the existing gas tax go entirely for maintenance of existing roads – and forgo new construction.

    That’s the situation that we are in right now. Without changes, by 2010 there will be virtually no money for new construction. Virginia is not alone in this. It’s pretty much nationwide – each state on it’s own timeline – but they all end up the same – out of money – at some point. The states that index their gas tax for inflation are in better shape than the ones that don’t.

    Many of the tolling prospects involve congestion pricing with incentives for multi-person vehicles.

    Business would pay, I assume, the cost of doing business and pass it on in the price of their goods and services.

    Business is one of the loudest voices right now with respect to the need to “do something” before the economy (business) is harmed so I find it a bit curious that their preferred (at least the vocal ones) option is for taxpayers to foot the bill.

  9. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    With all due respect, none of these ideas address the trust issue. The average Virginian, IMO, probably thinks that an increase in transportation taxes will not produce measurable improvements in transportation. Many will feel that the money from NoVA will go elsewhere in the state. Many will feel that, instead of making commuting time shorter, the added money will go to enable more development. I sure do.

    Warner had it easy. It was simple to show how more money could go to schools, state police, medical care for the elderly, colleges, etc. How can Kaine demonstrate that more transportation tax revenues will be well spent — that means Joe or Jane Commuter’s travel time to and from work would be less? Kaine cannot do that. His mountain is a high one.

  10. If you think that users should pay for transportation, then the answer is a gas tax: it charges for use by distance and weight. If there is a shift to alternativve fuels and more efficient vehicles, that does nothing to change the road expenses that must be borne. Therefore you must have increasingly higher and more inclusive fuel taxes to adjust for changing conditions.

    The idea that fuel taxes CANNOT support the roads is bogus. They can, but we either have not the will to do it, or we have chosen other means.

    Tolls are just a fuel tax that is less efficient,less fair, and more costly to administer. That said, there may well be an argument for congestion fees, but I believe congestion fees are just an incentive for sprawl. I also think that’s a good thing: the last thing we need is to promote more of the kinds of problems our most congested areas have.

    Even if you believe that speading infrastructure around the countryside is expensive, you have to ask if it is more expensive than attampting to mitigate all the problems our most congested and densely populated areas have. (And mostly failing in the attempt.)

    I think you have clairfied the issue, and I agree that charging people just for owning a vehicle is wrong headed. I own several vehicles, that I use infrequently, and each for a specific job. If these tax increases go into effect three of them will go to the junkyard, and I will keep the largest and most inefficient one because it is the most capable. Most wasteful, yes, but still most capable. This is a good example of the law of unintended consequences.

    But, it does not have to come down to sending all the money to a big pot, or gas taxes, or tolls. We should have some of each, and we should pay for some road (and other transit improvements)improvements with real estate tax. And since transportation is so closely tied to income, you may as well dip in that pot, too. Lord knows we can use the money, even if we use it to spread the jobs around instead of building roads.

    What we do not have is a good accounting that we could use to at least bolster our arguments with something other than opinion. The Federal government keeps a set of input output tables. These have the SEC codes across the top and down the sides. If you read down it shows where each industry spends its money, and if you read across it shows where each industry gets its money.

    These make fascinating reading, and the stock market traders use a much more complicted and sensitive version of the idea to model the economy and decide where to invest next, as the money sloshes around from bucket to bucket in the tables.

    Virginia could end a lot of arguments if they had a similar set of tables with the counties and cities instead of the SEC codes.

    If the governor is interested, I’d be glad to submit a proposal to do the work.

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Why not do a test run of your proposal right here?

    I for one am all ears…

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “The idea that fuel taxes CANNOT support the roads is bogus.”

    Ray – how do you reconcile your view with the following:

    “VDOT says two key categories of REVENUES ARE DOWN for the first four months of the fiscal year.
    The two revenue streams that decreased are the motor-fuels tax and motor-vehicle sales and use-tax revenues.

    Annually, the two taxes account for almost half of the state money used to pay for transportation improvements and programs. VDOT officials say…

    … HIGHER GAS PRICES and depressed auto sales account for the downturn in the tax collections.”


    Do you think the Va GA sees this same news? Do you think it would have an effect on their “will” to raise the gas tax?

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “With all due respect, none of these ideas address the trust issue. The average Virginian, IMO, probably thinks that an increase in transportation taxes will not produce measurable improvements in transportation.”

    Oh.. I sorta agree – Prince William and Fairfax voters that voted against the 2002 Transportation Referenda to send the tax to Richmond… voted FOR local referenda where the money was spent locally.

    I believe that Prince William votes .. voted at an 80% level in favor of local taxes for roads in this past election.

    I WILL admit that in Stafford County – referenda got voted down – and it was Precisely the “trust” factor that you allude to. Many folks were convinced that the money would be spent to foster new development. This was reinforced by two current members of the BOS plus 8 past BOS members in very public statements prior to the vote.

    If the same thing happened in Fairfax and/or Prince William – I suspect the outcome will be similiar.

    Lacking such statements, Right or wrong – many folks believe that it comes down to money for roads to reduce congestion – and assume measurable improvements.

    I can’t emphasize enough that when VDOT shows each locality a list of roads that implies that those roads will be improved – and then comes back later and says “sorry – there is no more money” – people feel that VDOT lied to them.

    VDOT – most organizations – the absolutely most valuable asset they have is their reputation – and when it is harmed – it takes a long, long time to rebuild trust. You can have 1000 guys at VDOT working hard for the public – and two that don’t give a rip – and the whole enterprise gets tarred by those two guys – who usually are anonymous.

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Ben Martin, Would you pay more under my plan? It depends. Right now, you’re paying a gas tax, which covers mostly maintenance plus a little for new construction. However, within a few years, the gas tax will cover only maintenance. Indeed, eventually, the gas tax won’t even fully cover maintenance. Under my proposal, you would be charged instead on the basis of Vehicle Miles Driven, adjusted for the size and weight of your car. The price per mile would vary from year to year, depending on what it cost to maintain state roads.

    If you drive a Hummer, you’d pay more than if you drove a Prius, on the grounds that a heavier automobile causes more wear and tear on the roads. (What the difference would be, I can’t tell you — I’d leave it up to the engineers to come up with a formula.) If the cost of maintenance continues to escalate without let-up, which it will do unless we restructure the way we administer our roads, then you will pay more — but no more than your fair share of what it costs ot maintain the roads.

    Under my plan, you’d also pay time-of-day tolls in heavily congested areas. If your driving takes you through heavily congested areas during periods of peak traffic, yes, you’d pay a lot more. (There would be an offset, however: You’d be driving on less congested roads). If you’re driving mostly to cities and towns around the state where traffic congestion isn’t a major problem, and no tolls exist, you wouldn’t pay any more.

  15. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Ben Martin, Now that I re-read your question, I realize that I did not answer it. Would your employer pick up the tab for increased driving expenses? Only your accountant knows for sure. I would presume that your employer would cover the same expenses — mileage, tolls, etc. — that it does today.

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Note the news this morning that both GM and Toyota are going to build plug-in Hybrids.

    For those not familiar with the term “plug-in”.

    There are ordinary hybrids that have two engines – one electric and one gasoline – and a large battery.
    The car runs on electric until the battery is exhausted then it switches to gasoline.

    The plug-in is a further evolution. It allows one to plug in the hybrid at night to fully recharge the battery so that the car will go further the next morning on a full battery….

    These cars will get the equivalent of 70 mpg or better.

    The cars – if they overcome the battery size issues – not a automatic given – will profoundly affect transportation as we know it.

    1. – People who buy/use them will use 1/3 to 1/4 the gasoline that they do now…. further sapping the gas tax.

    2. – People who commute – will switch over in droves once gasoline goes to $3-4 a gallon.

    3. – the power grid and power plants will NOT take a hit per se – because the new loading will be in the wee hours of the day when there is excess generating capacity

    4. – it WILL .. INCREASE emissions… from power plants… since they will be generating power in the wee hours
    rather than idling on stand-by.

    5. – Urban areas WILL HAVE cleaner air quality – which COULD result in the EPA lifting the non-attainment restrictions.

    I’m not sure how this folds into Jim’s proposal but would be curious to hear from him.. on it. It would seem to me that even owners of hybrids would have to pay “something” if we are going to have ANY funds at all for even maintenance.

    My perception is that the gas tax is already going down and if plug-ins come online.. it’s decline will be every quicker.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of “if” for plug-ins – it’s WHEN.

  17. Jim Bacon Avatar

    I agree with Larry 100 percent on this. Several major Japanese and American auto manufacturers are making large investments in next-generation technologies that will increase gasoline mileage and decrease gasoline consumption. Hybrids may constitute less than one percent of the market today, but their market share will increase expontentially over the years ahead. In 20 years, normal gasoline-combustion engines will be an endangered species, found mainly in older cars.

    If Virginia sticks with a gas tax to fund its road maintenance and construction, it will have no choice but to continually raise the tax or suffer a massive erosion of revenue each year. As the tax inevitably rises, the burden of paying for road maintenance (and construction, if there’s any money left over) will shift increasingly to the drivers of gas-only cars. At some point, that cost will become so onerous it will accelerate the shift to hybrid/alternate fuel cars. At some point, the system will break down.

    Whether the tipping point is five years away or 20, I don’t know. But the fact that it will happen eventually is so blindingly obvious that we would be derelect not to anticipate it.

    What is the alternative? As I have long advocated, we must start planning for a system that collects a road maintenance fee based on Vehicle Miles Driven and the weight of the vehicle. It’s a fundamental principle of fairness: If you want to drive on the roads, you pay your fair share of maintaining them.

  18. nova_middle_man Avatar

    Just one more point of clarification

    How will new roads be built. Will users pay a little more than maintanence costs in usage fees or will it be financed through the congestion tolls or maybe both?

    and a comment/question

    With this pay as you go/use policy how will Transit work. Would transit continue to be subsidized based on taking cars off the road or would users actually pay the true maintanence costs

    Going along with the above who would fund new transit routes. I think you are going to say property/business owners who would benefit.

    And just to throw this out there. The whole pay to use concept is very intriguing but where do you draw the line. Granted some of these examples are a little extreme but are very intersting to libertarians such as myself and I think a majority of us 🙂

    universal preschool vs pay to learn higher ed vs vouchers and choice

    User fees at parks

    User fees for fire/police service
    (Ambulance fees already exist)

    The main point in all of this is where do you draw the line in paying for the common good vs paying for what you actually use

  19. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    Vehicle miles traveled and weight of the vehicle are one part of the fair share equation. The missing part is the cost of maintenance per lane mile. Does it cost ten times a much to plow snow from a lane that carries 20000 cars a day as one that carries 2000 cars a day? Any formula that does not consider the value to the community and the different costs for delivering services is a tax transfer formula and not a fair share formula.

    Maintenance formulas suffer the same problem that spending formulas suffer.
    Unless spending allocation formulas concentrate resources on eliminating congestion we will have no solution to Virginia’s transportation funding crises.

  20. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Jim W., We don’t disagree. Levying a VMT fee (adjusted for the weight of the car) covers only the expense of maintaining roads — including plowing for snow, cleaning up after ice storms, etc. Dealing with congestion requires a different toolset entirely — that’s why I advocate congestion tolls, which you also advocate.

  21. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    You forgot to consider “The missing part is the cost of maintenance per lane mile.”

    Maintenance formulas that do not consider the value of the maintenance as well as the cost don’t do the job.

    The old saying. He knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Tax payers are looking for value.

  22. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    To the Jims. I think you make good points about congestion pricing. But IMO, you are underestimating the commercial real estate industry that owns and is constructing many buildings in the “congested areas.” They wll fight congestion pricing tooth and nail.

    Congestion pricing for roads and transit is a threat to their investments because it puts a cost on the commuter, worker, contractor, customer, etc. who wants to travel to and from the “congested areas” during prime access time.

    While the demand curve may be relatively inelastic during the short run, it’s probably more elastic long term. If it costs commuters, for example, $30 per day to drive to, and park in, Tysons Corner, some commuters will stop driving to, and parking in, Tysons. Some businesses will not renew their leases or will open an office elsewhere.

    IMO, over the long run, the economic incidence of congestion-based transportation pricing will fall, at least to some degree, on the owners of real estate within the congested area. Therefore, I predict that, when push comes to shove, the commercial real estate industry will fight congestion pricing because it hurts their profits and value of their properties.

    In Virginia, transportation is not about moving people and goods, it’s about real estate development and investments.

  23. Jim Bacon Avatar

    TMT, I don’t disagree. In these types of discussions, there are always two levels of discourse: (1) What should we do, and (2) what is it politically feasibleto do? Without question, some people will perceive themselves as losers from congestion tolls. But that’s inevitable. Any option we choose, including doing nothing, entails winners and losers.

  24. Ray Hyde Avatar

    My response is that the gas tax should be a fuel tax, and it should be applied regardless of the use.

    Larry, you eep making the same old argument that gas taxes won;t work.

    I have already posted graphs from Ohio where they have periodically bosted the tax and revenues have soared. Whether they soared wnough to cover costs is another issue.

    Give it up. This is not a case where expressing an opinion can overcome demonstrated facts. We are still burning more gas than ever, despite higher costs and lower miles driven. What does that tell you?

  25. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I have two ideas. One is a set of input output tables designed to answer the question of who pays for what. That isn’t a candidate for teting here: it is far too technical.

    The other idea is the self induced budget, where each perso allocates their own tax dollars. Again, I don’t think this is a good venue, because of self selection. This would need to be tested on a statistically significant and representative population.

    For the record, I don’t think it should be binding on the legislators, but you could set boundaries, like no more that 15% plus or minus from the expressed will of the people.

  26. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “Any formula that does not consider the value to the community and the different costs for delivering services is a tax transfer formula and not a fair share formula.”

    Aah, yes. Precisely how I feel about taxing open space at three times what it costs, while also burdening it with excessive growth restrictions designed to benefit others.

    It isn’t bad enough that open space is fair game when it comes to roads, and growth restrictions, now we see it is the best place to put power lines as well.

    Just like the roads, those power lines will serve millions for decades. But the poor schmuck landowner that gets hit will get paid once.

    If we are going to claim that landowners benefit from the increased land value of their property, shouldn’t we claim that road users also benefit from the increased value of their travel? Shouldn’t some of that increased value accrue to the (former) owner?

    They built route 66 across the farm, and it is much more heavily traveled now than when it was built. But the payment to the farm was fixed 40 years ago, and the farm has also been prohibited from benefiting from the highway.

    It seems like kind of a one way exchange.

    If farms are disappearing due to lack of profit, maybe this is a way to rectify the situation. Charge tolls for the use of the roads (or power lines) and send part of the money to the landowners.

    I’m going to have to live wth the highway forever, but at least I get to use it. (And I would have to pay the toll, too.) But the power line is going to be used to ship Power to New England. Shouldn’t I be allowed to put up a toll booth, too?

  27. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think congestion (value) pricing will come online long before VMT pricing does.

    Here’s an excerpt from the FHWA VALUE PRICING PROJECT QUARTERLY REPORTS July – September 2006:

    VIRGINIA: Regional Network of Value Priced Lanes (study)

    Currently, the plan includes four new high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes along 15 miles of the Capital Beltway in Virginia, and six new variably priced lanes along 18 miles on the future Inter-County Connector in Maryland. It also includes a study of the conversion of existing HOV lanes into HOT lanes and construction of new HOT lanes along 47 miles of the I-95/395 corridor in Virginia. Anticipated Completion Date: 2007

    This report, by the way shows more than ten states with active plans and/or actual implemntation for congestion (value) pricing.


  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: Ray and the gas tax.

    I give up. When I post actual news that VDOT announces receiving less gas tax revenue this year than last year – at least the first 4 months so far and Ray chooses to believe something different… I KNOW I’m wasting my breath.. and probably boring others also with the repetition.

  29. Informed Patriot Avatar
    Informed Patriot

    One topic for maybe another thread is the use of general funds for “transportation.” I agree that user fees (gas tax, tolls) should be used for construction of transportation projects that reduce congestion and increase safety. However, many of the projects VDOT and localities have on their wish list do not fall into those categories. They are strictly economic development deals. Think about the Third Crossing, Rt 58 and the Coalfield Expressway (Cul-da-sac). Virginia uses GF money for economic development projects all the time to encourage businesses to locate here. One of the top reasons businesses choose a location is transportation. These projects should be considered ecnomic development projects and should have access to GF monies. If the reason for building more roads from the ports is an economic development issue and not to ease commuter congestion, they should be funded like other economic development. Should this be the same with new roads leading to possible development, even in NOVA? Thoughts?

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    Should economic development projects be funded with tax increment financing? Section 58.1-3245.2 permits counties, towns, and cities to engage in tax increment financing within a development project area.

    If a new road, etc. will truly spur economic development, the development revenues should be adequate to pay for at least a sizable portion of the new public facility.

  31. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Excellent dialogue… distinction between economic development and transportation.

    There are some who will believe that there is no easy way to separate the two.

    But the problem is that economic development is MORE than just roads alone and the trick has always been to determine how much can be afforded as an investment towards ED – which in an of itself can be a risky thing.

    With just about every option BUT roads, ED discussions can end up in a rational decision when folks decide “we just don’t have that kind of money .. and besides… it may not give us a good ROI”.

    I can see ED via new roads in rural and/or economically challenged areas though I think folks are starting to realize that brand new roads to communities with poor education systems… is a no go now that low-skill jobs have gone overseas…. what would we “export” on those fancy new roads.

    But in urban areas – already much better off economically… with good if not booming economies… and terrible gridlock-like conditions… to STILL be thinking in terms of ED for new roads is … really dumb… and if at the end of the day.. local voters put into office addle-brained folks who choose ED over a rational transportation network – well.. they deserve them…

    And I’m fine with it – as long as they spend their own money and don’t go off looking to siphon money away from the non-urban areas of Va who are must less well off economically.

    It’s really a failure to deal with reality. Even if NoVa and HR COULD sap Farmville… how much money can you get blood out of a turnip.

    NoVa and HR population and “needs” dwarf most other communities in Va.

    They “own” their own problems… but they fail to recognize it and every time I hear them say that the State “has got to do something about transportation”.. who the heck do they think the “State” is to start with – if not taxpayers?

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    Stupid is as stupid does. I never ceases to amaze me when residents of NoVA both complain about how much money is drained from this area and then turn around to support some new state program or an expansion of one. Fairfax County residents pay about 26% of the individual income tax, while constituting somewhere between 12-14% of the various service group populations. Thus, any new program or expansion will cost Fairfax taxpayers more than 25% of the tab, but at most, we’d get 14% or so of the benefits.

    We are much better off taxing ourselves and keeping 100% of the money. The problem is no one trusts the local government officials on any issue that touches land use.

  33. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Larry, we are going to have 2 million more people.

    The addition of those people either means we will burn mor fuel, or else a lot of us will do without the benefits fuel provides.

    Either way, the roads are still going to have to be maintained, at least until we are too poor to use them, at which point we can let them revert to dirt tracks.

    So either we will burn more fuel, and the roads can be (partly) supported by gas tax, or else we won’t and we will all be (economically) worse off for it.

    If the government txes me more, I will be worse off. But I will be worse off either way. If I have to pay, I’d rather pay with the chance of getting something, rather than the surety of privation.

  34. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I think Fairfax would be perfectly happy if what “the state” does for transportation is just to let Faifax keep and spend their money at home, instead of sending it to Farmville.

    Given that this isn’t happening, it seems to me perfectly reasonable that Fairfax would lobby the state to send more of the money back where it came from anyway.

  35. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    so… I just want to get this straight guys…

    The STATE must do something… about transportation.. and the “something” is to raise taxes statewide on everyone…and then send less than NoVas share back to NoVa… right?

    as opposed to… NoVa raising their own taxes.. and keeping all of it…

    so.. Ray.. you DO favor statewide tax increases… gasoline.. income… etc instead of local taxes.. for transportation – right?

    Count us in on this logic down Fredericksburg way.. sounds like a good plan to us… 🙂
    We just love paying for other jurisdictions roads…
    ( I’ve got some swampland for sale for those that believe the last 2 sentences).

    I just KNOW that Gov Kaine and Senator Chichester can’t wait to hear of your approval ….

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